A piece of home exercise equipment can be a big purchase, as our tests of treadmills show. Our top-rated nonfolding treadmill costs a cool $3,800. Spending that much can get you sturdier construction, better hardware, and more features. But you can get a decent machine that provides a great workout for less than a third of that price.
Consider the size. Most treadmills are about 6.5 feet by 3 feet. Folding treadmills are about half the length when folded. Don't assume that because you buy a folding treadmill you'll actually fold and stow it. If that feature is important, try folding the machine before buying to see how easy it is to do and whether folding makes it easier to store. You'll also need adequate space--about two feet on each side and the back--to get on and off safely.
Think about assembly. A treadmill can weigh up to 400 pounds, so ask about delivery and check whether assembly is included or available at an additional cost. It might be worth it if you're not particularly good with a toolbox. It generally takes our experienced engineers about 1 to 2 hours to put together a treadmill, depending on the number of steps. Lifting heavy parts, adding applying grease, and working on your knees are part of the process. Some of the steps require two people.
Our treadmill Ratings include dozens of models that we evaluated on construction, ease of use, ergonomics, exercise range, and safety. Our treadmill buying guide has information on different types and brands, features to look for, and other shopping tips.